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May kindness be the theme of 2021

Published on 01 January 2021 11:33 AM

A New Year message from Age Scotland's chief executive Brian Sloan.

As the bells rang in for 2020 it was incomprehensible to fathom how our lives would change over those coming weeks and months. 

The toll COVID-19 has had on our health and wellbeing has been, and continues to be, vast. It has shut down any sense of “normality” and further exposed inequalities in society. While this cruel virus doesn’t discriminate, there is no doubt that it has had a devastating impact on the lives of older people. This has been heartbreakingly borne out by the high number of deaths and levels of ill health among this age group and has been particularly felt in our care homes.

As a charity, we had to refocus and adapt in 2020 like never before. Our purpose in supporting older people in Scotland and the national response to COVID-19 was clear. Activity across our organisation stopped and all hands deployed to scaling up our national helpline to meet the overwhelming demand. Calls spiked to more than ten times their normal daily levels, demonstrating the need for clear information, advice, and friendship. We have been supporting older people through crisis and ensuring that they have someone to turn to.

Levels of loneliness among people of all ages have skyrocketed and drawn into sharp focus its impact on a person’s health. This is something which has been of considerable concern to older people long before COVID-19 and which we have been working to tackle for many years. We know that for half of all over 75’s their main form of company is their TV, radio or pet and that as many as two older people on every street in Scotland would go at least half a week without seeing or hearing from anyone else. This regularly gives me pause for thought and to seek new ways to help people get more connected.

In order to be there for more older people, our new friendship line was launched in June, increasing the scale of our service and support those in need of a chat, a friendly voice, reassurance, and to know that someone out there cares. 

So, after a year like no other it is important to look ahead with hope and optimism. 

It has been inspiring to witness how people across the country and stepped in and stepped forward to help those in need around them in 2020. This unprecedented national movement demonstrated the best of Scotland. Indeed, our recent research shows that around 94,000 older people wouldn’t have got through this year without the kindness of strangers. That would mean on every street, in every community, an older person has been helped by a neighbour and their lives the better for it. How wonderful.

We were delighted to support the Scottish Government’s campaign for kindness as the theme of the recent St Andrew’s Day celebrations but it is something which we will need in abundance in 2021, and beyond.

As we turn a corner in our collective fight against COVID-19, with new vaccines beginning their rollout and life for many may look as though it could return to some kind of “normality” this year, we mustn’t forget all of the good things we have done together to help others. 

People will still need your kindness long after this virus has been beaten back so please stick with it. Reach out to older neighbours and relatives once again, smile, stop to chat when you pass in the street, be available and let people know that you are there if they need it. I know what a tremendous difference this will make.

On behalf of Age Scotland, I want to thank you for your support and I hope that we can continue to be of support to you in 2021.

The Age Scotland Helpline

Call our helpline on 0800 12 44 222 for free to speak to an adviser. Open Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm.

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By donating just £5 you can make a real difference, because it enables us to make or receive a call to our Friendship Line.

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